Are You Looking for a Place to Visit or an Experience?

They’re the same, right? Well, maybe not.

Scuba Divers in Lake Clear, NY at the Lake Clear Lodge

Editor's note

After all, our family is planning on visiting “Omi” and we are looking for things to do while we are there. At first, you think it is all part of a simple trip. Then you realize they are quite different. Visiting your Mother has certain expectations and planning on doing other things can be quite another thing. Is everyone going? Is it for certain member(s) of the family? And depending on what it is, fishing, ceramics class, a history tour, what you expect can be quite different.  In one trip, we can be very different travelers.

Do you find yourself in that boat too?

What is the Definition of a Vacation to You?

A word of caution here: I was the founding Director of an Adirondack Park sustainable development organization and so I often find myself in two worlds. One as an entrepreneur and the other a business and community development specialist. It often drives our family and staff crazy as I go between practice and theory. So, if you are thinking there may be different expectations for you or your family, here are a couple of helpful hints.

First, you may be a parent wanting to ensure your kids have something to do both outdoor and in. Depending on their ages, that could mean very different things. Hey, what about you?

It Used to be Simple

As an Adirondack lodge, we used to think the same way too. Whether you were coming for a vacation versus business or special event, it was all the same right? We offered a lodging with a basic package of dinner, use of our property, canoes, skis, etc.

We can’t do that anymore.

The Adirondacks are a big place – 6 million acres. For comparison, you can put all the national parks in the U.S. inside of it. Here is one better: it is bigger than the state of Vermont. The entire Park is protected private and public lands and over 60% are designated “forever wild,” meaning you can’t touch them with any kind of development or sometimes even a road. There are over 100 communities in the Park but the largest population is the two biggest villages right here in our neck of the woods: Saranac and Tupper Lake with just over 5,000 year-round residents each. Many of our communities are less than 500 people and are a fairly good distance apart.

So a lot of folks who plan on vacationing here are aware of some of that and they want to be sure there is something to do for everyone. Plus, they want to know what to do on that preverbal “rainy day.”

Evolution from Offering a “Package” to an “Experience”

Now, what does that mean?

We started to add things to do like discounted tickets to places like the Wild Center or other activities such as our own History of Beer Workshops or Family Cooking Classes. We would provide you a list of things to do, calendar of events, etc. These became “seasonal packages.”

That may have been a good first step but just like there are different things your family members like to eat for themselves, there have to be menu choices. Except, when you think about it, there is one more level of criteria we probably make before we get to even that point.

Those options have to be connected to experiences. Just as a menu has to offer choices, you also pick a restaurant based on its experience: fine dining, pizza, ethnic, etc.

We now have to change our offerings from packages that include a list of things to do to thematic experiences.

For example, we developed an Adirondack Discovery Experience which, depending on the time of year, ties in themed events. This summer, the theme highlights water experiences from complimentary canoes and kayaks to swimming our beautiful, serene beach and tickets to the Wild Center, a menu which includes water and woods, visiting the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center bogs and while you’re there, the Butterfly House. Then, add-on a Creative Water Coloring Workshop with Bluseed Studios or savor spectacular sunset, lake-view dining.

I just came away from a community meeting last week in Saranac Lake and we hope to expand these thematic experiences throughout the region among a group of vendors that you may not ordinarily link together such as arts and cultural venues working with retail, restaurants, and lodging facilities.

Ease & Convenience

The days of folks coming for a singular activity like paddling and spending most of their vacation doing just that seem to be waning. Like thinking about my own family when we travel, I need to be sure there is something for everyone and I don’t have the time to search list upon list. So, we decide on the experience and, to us, that means the gamut from activities and food to places to stay.

Do you do the same? Are you looking for experiences versus activities? In the Adirondacks, there are a host of resources like the local chambers of commerce, online listings, and regional and state promotion agencies where you can zero in by activity and specific place. Don’t be afraid to ask the place where you are staying either. They may be resourced by families like ourselves who become tourists too!

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